Ask the Doctor: Motherhood is depressing me

I am 24 years old and gave birth to baby girl in November. I am not married. At my age I feel like there are so many things I haven’t done yet and I’m quite depressed with motherhood. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to be a mum but at the same time, I feel like it is tying me down.
Dr Rachna Pande
Dr Rachna Pande

I am 24 years old and gave birth to baby girl in November. I am not married. At my age I feel like there are so many things I haven’t done yet and I’m quite depressed with motherhood. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to be a mum but at the same time, I feel like it is tying me down.

Lately I feel tired all the time, I rarely get to see my friends let alone hang out and cut loose. Haven’t had much sleep the last couple of weeks either because the baby cries all the time. I feel like I’m on the verge of some sort of mental breakdown.

 

I don’t have any help so I’m basically on my own. This depression feels like its worsening. Is there some sort of medication that can help me through this? I could really use it. 

 

Susan, Gikondo

 

Dear Susan,

You are suffering from post partum depression. Some mood changes do come after child birth but they subside in a few days to weeks, while depression persists. There is nothing to feel bad about, because any woman can get it after child birth or even a miscarriage. There are multiple underlying causes. Change in hormonal levels after child birth, lack of family support, financial problems, lack of adequate nutrition and sleep are some of them. 

Those with history of depression before are prone to it.  In severe cases a new mother may even refuse to look after the baby. But one can overcome them with some efforts. Care of a baby is a 24 hour job. One is really, literally tied down with the baby for first few months and maybe till the infant starts walking.  

Therefore adapt to the situation mentally and start doing the job happily. Imagine the joys of motherhood and how your own mother has laboured to bring you up. There will be plenty of time later on to hang around and catch up with friends, but right now your baby needs you. These thoughts would definitely elevate the depressed mood and help you to do necessary work.

If possible, elicit support from a relative or friend; any well meaning person will understand your predicament and be ready to help out.

During pregnancy and lactation after child birth, the demand for nutrients particularly iron and calcium is increased in the body. This, if not fulfilled, results in weakness, backache and joints pain in the affected woman. It is important to take a nutritious diet during pregnancy and child birth to avoid this. For taking your meals you shall have to tune your time with that of the baby.

Regarding sleep, try taking a short nap when the baby is asleep. If the infant is crying much it would be either hungry or suffering from stomach colic. Most of the babies who are on milk exclusively do develop flatulence and colic pain. You can show him to a child specialist to exclude any problem.

Antidepressant drugs like haldo, anafranil, e.t.c. can be taken in a low dose for a short time (one or two weeks) if you feel very difficult to cope up. But it is not a long term solution. These drugs tend to cause somnolence which is not desirable if you are the only one around to watch the baby. Apart from this, these drugs can cause adverse effects like rigidity of limbs.

Gear up yourself for the new role in life. Days pass very fast and this will also become a thing of past.

Dr. Rachna Pande is a specialist in Internal Medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital

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